Joined: Jul 08, 2014 Posts: 944 Location: Vacaville, CA
Posted: Sun Nov 12, 2017 4:21 pm Post subject: Went looking for fall color in the California wine country
Nov. 7th of last year I did a Napa Valley fall color ride and found the grape vines putting on a great show, so last week I headed back up Napa Valley hoping for a repeat.
I headed up Pleasants Vly road on the NX250, enjoying morning's long shadows.
A detour through the little town of Winters for gas took me past Lake Solano and its mirror-like reflections.
As I rode past Lake Berryessa there was little color in the leaves, and of course too much of the color black from our recent fires.
But surely the Napa vineyards would be a blaze of bright yellows and reds.....nope, most vines were either still green, a feeble greenish yellow, or had dropped their leaves already. Poor me, I had to content myself with just the ordinary spectacular views and interesting sights, a fun bike and great roads.
I decided to ride over Ida Clayton Rd. an amazing 12 miles of rustic pavement and gravel that traverses the west side of Mt. St. Helena. Past the town of Calistoga I stopped to look toward the mountain and saw that fire had charred a good bit of the eastern and southern slopes. I began to worry that maybe Ida Clayton has been burned.
Riding up Hwy 128 west of Calistoga there is plenty of bad fire damage, including the kinds of shots we've all seen in the media with burned trees, vehicles and buildings. But a few miles before reaching the Ida Clayton turnoff all looked fine. I headed up the narrow, bumpy little road. Surely the big vineyard up here would be putting on a show of color. And if not, pretty leaves were just an excuse to get back on this great road anyway.
Good news, the fire did not come over the west side. And although the vines have already dropped their leaves, the bare rows outlining every contour of the land have their own beauty. I'm a happy guy!
Passing across a summit and heading north this delicious road delivers mile after mile of deeply shaded tree tunnels. With little or no traffic, places too narrow for two vehicles, and stunning beauty it feels a world apart.
Suddenly the road changes name to Western Mine Rd, changes to gravel and begins a steep drop down to Hwy 29 near Middletown.
I ride up and over 29 back to Calistoga for lunch at Buster's Southern Barbecue, where I finally see some beautiful rich red colors in the sauce on my pork ribs. Also had a nice chat with a fellow rider visiting from Fresno on his brand new Harley.
Riding back down Napa Valley and still not finding much fall color I decided to try my luck over the hill in Pope Valley and turned uphill to another remote bit of funky pavement, Ink Grade. It rewarded as usual with no traffic, tall dark redwood forest and tight twisty turns as it dropped down into Pope Valley. But still not much color, just everyday amazing beauty and a fun ride. Oh well, I put up with it.
But once on Pope Valley and Chiles Valley roads I struck gold, as well as red and yellow.
Feeling stupid happy I scoot back around Lake Berryessa and down Pleasants Valley Rd to home, totally satisfied and once again pinching myself to make sure such a fine ride was not a dream. Life is good.
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